Words and Illustration by Spliffington—
In his new column, Field Trips with Spliffington, visual artist Herbert Spliffington of the Field Trip World design collective and the soundtape-focused Out Pon Bail Tumblr will take us on a journey through dancehall culture in the form of unique illustrations and related stories. The inaugural edition of the column sees Spliffington head to the recent Warzone soundclash between King Addies and LP International, at Brooklyn’s Albany Manor.
Soundclash is essentially a sport, based inside the dancehall arena. It’s been a part of Jamaican dancehall culture since the ’50s, before ska or reggae were even distinct musical genres. Sound systems tied to studios, bar owners or garrison crews maintained a competitive edge by keeping a stable of deejays and cutting dubplates of popular songs. The rules were simple: play the better selections, entertain the crowd and maintain the best sound quality for the duration of the night. The crowd’s reactions determine who leads.
Formats changed over the years and, by the ’90s, dubplates had completely replaced live deejays on sounds. During this era, Brooklyn sounds in particular had reputations as hardcore clash machines. Sounds like King Addies, Soul Supreme, Earth Ruler and LP International were competing against established sounds from Jamaica and England. One venue in particular, the Biltmore Ballroom, was so central to the Brooklyn clash scene that particularly lethal songs and riddims originally played on dubplate in that venue, such as Bounty Killer’s ‘Lodge’ and Shabba Ranks’ ‘Shine & Criss,’ are still referred to as ‘Biltmore Tunes.’
Saturday before last, Albany Manor in Brooklyn witnessed a sound clash between rival champion sounds King Addies and LP International, which saw both sounds back to claim their home turf. The sounds’ history goes back almost 20 years to their first clash in 1994, which ended with Addies having ‘technical difficulties’ or having been ‘sabotaged’ depending on who you talk to. Two years later they clashed again and Addies was declared the winner. This was the first one-on-one clash between them in 16 years, so the NYC fans were out in full effect.
LP International’s Killer D. Photo Courtsey: Supa Notch
In the Biltmore era, King Addies was known as the ‘Billboard Sound’ for their ability to cut pretty much anyone they wanted to on dubplate. Not many sounds can play the Fugees on special or Raekwon in combo with Merciless. And those are just ‘novelty’ dubs—Addies’ box also includes artists like Nitty Gritty and Tenor Saw (thanks to veteran selector Danny Dread) and Supercat who cut dubplates for only a handful of sound systems in the ’90s. Love People, a/k/a LP International, meanwhile, claim to have the largest collection of dubplates from Dennis Brown in the world, including several dubs of the Crown Prince of Reggae dissing Addies, along with a Biggie Smalls dubplate and several other surprises.
Puma, the owner and selector of LP, has maintained a presence in Europe in recent years along with Killer D, who has been with the sound for nine years. While Addies’ original killing team of Babyface and Tony Matterhorn disbanded in the late 90s, Addies is back on the Brooklyn warpath with the new team of Kingpin and A1, who handled the sound for the evening.
King Addies’ Kingpin and A1. Photo Courtesy: Supa Notch
There was no referee—if the other sound went over time, the other sound simply pressed their sound effects until the other cut off. Airhorns were in full effect, and I even heard clappaz early on. A1 and Kingpin took the lead in the early rounds, even though they have only been on Addies for six months. Custom dubs and ancient vintage dubs were flying, while both sounds brandished brand new dubs from deejays like I-Octane and Potential Kidd. It was a slugfest. LP’s Waka Flocka Flame custom dub wasn’t received well but, anchored by Puma’s timing, LP gained so much momentum that Addies was forced to play more exclusive dubs in an attempt to sway the crowd. When LP came back by playing Garnet Silk, by request, people were beating the walls so hard it’s surprising that Albany Manor is still standing.
Notably, each sound was playing on different sets, and LP’s Venom Y2Ksystem was tuned cleaner, although not necessarily louder, than the Nexxt Level set Addies used. As with any good clash, the end was controversial.
Photo Courtsey: Supa Notch
Download the full audio recording of the Warzone clash below. It was over five hours long so the recording’s been split into ‘Early Warm’—the rounds that occur while people are still filing into the venue—and the actual clash itself with MC chatter. Big up and congratulations to LP International, big up the new squad on King Addies and big up the promoter Andrew Digital for putting on a truly memorable event.